Congress and Killing Oversight: Eric Holder v. Ron Wyden

Eric Holder today said that giving “appropriate members of Congress” information on the “legal framework” of its operations where “lethal force is used against United States citizens” is a key part of robust oversight.

That is not to say that the Executive Branch has – or should ever have – the ability to target any such individuals without robust oversight.  Which is why, in keeping with the law and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Executive Branch regularly informs the appropriate members of Congress about our counterterrorism activities, including the legal framework, and would of course follow the same practice where lethal force is used against United States citizens.

Well, then, there simply hasn’t been robust oversight over the Anwar al-Awlaki killing.

As of a month ago–four months after Awlaki was killed–the Senate Intelligence Committee had not been provided with the legal framework for Awlaki’s kill. This, in spite of the fact that SSCI member Ron Wyden had been requesting that framework for over five months before Awlaki was killed.

I said when Wyden made that clear that it showed there had not been adequate oversight of the killing. By his words–if not his deeds–Holder effectively made the same argument.

10 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Should it be, “By his deeds – if not his words” Mr. Holder demonstrates the complete lack of oversight?

    Mr. Bush abused the government and frustrated its job of oversight in many ways. One was by appointing lobbyists from private industry to run the federal agencies responsible for overseeing their “former” bosses.

    Mr. Obama continues to try to outdo his predecessor’s gaming the system. The corruption is evident, as is Congress’ determination to avoid seeing it. Mr. Obama’s work is not obviously enhancing the lives, livelihoods or security of average Americans. On whose behalf is he acting? Average Americans, meanwhile, may acidly remind Mr. Obama of his malign neglect of their interests at the polls this November, regardless of which even more radical corporatist the GOP chooses to run against him.

  2. MadDog says:

    Have we been time-warped back to the Bush/Cheney regime where whispering in the ears of the Gang of Four is deemed appropriate Congressional notification?

    Come on Eric! Name the names of those Congresscritters you deigned to “notify”…if you dare!

  3. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: This post is on one topic that–every time I write on it–I miss Mary badly.

    BC she’d be on here citing from the National Security Act about how inadequate this would be just in terms of the Gang of Four (or Eight) notice even for covert actions generally, much less than one that targets a US citizen and STILL limits real oversight to Gang of Four/Eight 6 months after the killing.

  4. rugger9 says:

    Well, how nice of Sen Wyden to tut-tut the speech.

    What is he going to DO about it? I say cut the funding.

  5. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    There is no such thing as appropriate oversight for assassinations. They are illegal and immoral. Even if they had briefed both Intelligence committees in their full membership (as the Pike Committee had recommended) it wouldn’t be justifiable.

  6. bmaz says:

    @Jeffrey Kaye: Oh, if they actually had the blank spots filled in with supported credible evidence and complied with briefing etc. I think there is a situation where it would be a supportable act. They have not done that for the most part; most critically as to the Americans killed.

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